Value of short duration pizzicato practice?

Edited: June 1, 2017, 10:55 PM · Greetings again friends!

Recently at work we have been working a lot of overtime. When you combine this with an overnight schedule, plus my other music activities that are not on violin/viola, it leaves very little time for practice on them.

In fact, I haven't picked up my viola in a week and a half (much longer for the violin, rip). This lead me to ponder ways I could sneak practice in at work.

I came to the conclusion that I could either use my 'beater' viola or even purchase a very cheap instrument and leave it in the trunk, then use it on my 15 minute breaks (lunches are for walking!) in the front seat of my car for practice.

Obviously because of space constraints, this would have to be pizz practice with no semblance of proper form or technique - in fact, to use the words of Boccherini it would be 'immitando la chitarra'.

What are you thoughts on the validity of this form of practicing? My logic is that it's better to have two 15 minute practice sessions of *something* than zero practice sessions of nothing, but what would one focus on? Perhaps plucking along to recordings?

Unfortunately my supervisor is extremely unsympathetic to the situation - no instruments out of their case in the building! (except that one time the power was out...)

Replies (7)

June 2, 2017, 5:48 AM · Better than nothing! I find pizzicato sounds best with the "fat" of the plucking finger, over the fingerboard, with a slight rubbing motion rather than hooking the string. The left hand needs to press noticeably harder than usual to get a clear sound.

The downside is that we may not be sufficiently bothered by slight lapses of intonation.

June 2, 2017, 7:00 PM · Skip your breaks and leave 1/2 hour earlier and practice better? Nothing wrong with pizzicato practice per se in my view, but squeezing it in in the car for 15 minutes minus travel and setup time sounds futile.
June 2, 2017, 7:25 PM · How about an electric violin with headphones? Tell your employer it is for therapy. Can you get a doctor's note?
June 2, 2017, 7:45 PM · If you'd like to practice with pizzicato, then I'd say go for it! It is definitely more beneficial to practice a little than not at all, because you retain finger memory of your left hand. It may be difficult to practice the bowing but if you have the notes down then the bowing can follow much more quickly.

Even just sitting down in your car with the music score in front of you, plucking out the notes is quite beneficial. Once you have some more time you can integrate the bowing much easier because you have kept up with the notes already. I would actually disagree with Boccherini because despite lack of bowing, you can still practice shifting and intonation with pizzicato. The fact that it is harder to notice lapses in intonation makes it crucial for you to slow down a passage and simply pluck through being careful to listen for intonation particularly.

For example, on my way to recitals I would warm up in the car by pulling out my violin and plucking along while looking at the score. Not only did it warm my fingers up, it helped with memory retention of the actual music.

It does help to listen to recordings and if you'd like you can pluck along to them, but perhaps focus on listening to your sound rather than trying to keep up with a recording.

Hope this helps and good luck!

June 2, 2017, 7:46 PM · Leaving your violin or viola in the car trunk-if it spends any time in the sun - your beater will become totally beaten! Heat is really bad for our instruments.
Edited: June 2, 2017, 9:46 PM · Adrian, thank you. I do agree that intonation might be a bit of an issue, but it might also be a boon. As there is less time to listen to the pitch and less time to correct it might encourage sharper intonation and hearing... one might dream!

J Ray, We are not allowed to skip breaks to leave early except in special circumstances. I've had it approved exactly once - when I had to make a long drive the next day for academic reasons. Thankfully my beater tunes quickly (4 fine tuners with zyex strings) and it really would only take a moment to walk out to the car and set it up. Perhaps a little ironically, it's not as big a deal to be a minute or two late returning so I would start a 15 minute timer when everything is set to go.

Timothy, As for an electric instrument, it is not volume that is the problem. I use an Artino practice mute (one of the ones that is metal coated in rubber) and it makes my instruments barely louder than an electric violin. The problem is that my supervisor is of the strong opinion that it is simply 'unprofessional' to be allowed to do so in the building.

Su Han, thanks for your anecdote. I completely agree and that is the primary driving force behind the idea. If I can keep the notes under my fingers, at the very least, then it is better than letting the information atrophy. It might be harder to start something new using this method but for maintaining fingerings and (maybe) intonation it seems to be a good middle ground with the scenarios I have available. I too have used pizz as a 'quieter' warmup while waiting for a turn or things to begin. It's a good way to get the left hand ready.

Andrew! You are totally correct - thankfully in Canada it is much cooler than in some parts of the world, and I work overnights. I may have misspoke with how I worded it - I would only leave it there while at work. As I work overnight it is not as much of a concern as if my job was during the day and it was sitting in the sun. There is of course the option to bring it in and have it at my desk - which I do frequently do with my better instruments when I am not given a chance to return home first - but it's not as convenient if it's going to be an every day thing.

I wouldn't subject even a VSO to a full day in the blazing heat in what is essentially a metal can! the horror! I can just picture coming back to an instrument in 4 pieces - some ribs, a table, a backplate, and a neck, just sitting in the case unglued..

June 7, 2017, 12:03 AM · Just a follow up to this:

I've done this a couple days in a row and it does pay dividends. It's definitely not as functional as normal practice but I've been able to put in fingerings and work on passages and the like. It's actually enjoyable to just sit in the front seat and jam out a bit, even if it's a bit on the cramped side.

It's only been around 7-12c lately at nights so the Viola is fine in the car (the cold has not hurt this one, too cheap to really be bothered by it..), but I suspect I'll have to bring it in (as above) once the weather starts hitting 15-20C, since the trunk is a bit of an oven.

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